SINGAPORE – Singapore will lift its remaining Covid-19 restrictions like requiring masks on public transport from next Monday, when the country adjusts its disease outbreak response to the lowest level.
The lowering of the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) from yellow to green comes as the global and local pandemic situation is stable and the disease is mild, especially among vaccinated individuals, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday, noting that Covid-19 currently poses minimal disruption to healthcare capacity and people.
However, MOH will still require mask-wearing for visitors, staff and patients in healthcare and residential care settings such as hospital wards, clinics and nursing homes, where there is interaction with patients, the multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19 said at a media conference.
Vaccination will continue to be offered free to all Singapore citizens, permanent residents, long-term pass holders and certain short-term pass holders.
Everyone aged five and above should still get minimum protection – three doses of mRNA vaccines or the Novavax vaccine, or four doses of the Sinovac vaccine – while the Government will recommend that certain groups take booster jabs annually, said task force co-chair Ong Ye Kung, who is Health Minister.
However, pandemic subsidies will be further scaled back as Covid-19 is treated as an endemic disease. Treatment will no longer be fully subsidised, and patients will have to pay for any Covid-19 testing.
Mr Ong said Singapore’s high vaccination coverage was a key reason why it could progressively restore normal living while keeping deaths caused by Covid-19 at one of the lowest levels in the world, and arrive at Dorscon green.
About 80 per cent of the population have achieved minimum protection, and around half are up to date with Covid-19 vaccination, said MOH.
Mr Ong noted that Singapore had been worried about three areas of potential risk: the year-end travel season, the Northern Hemisphere winter and China’s shift away from its zero-Covid policy.
“But today, those risks are substantially past. We cannot rule out the future possibility of dangerous variants of concern emerging, but the uncertainties and risks we face now are significantly lower compared with one or two months ago,” he said.
Border measures will also be lifted from next Monday. All non-fully vaccinated travellers entering Singapore will no longer have to show proof of a negative pre-departure test, while non-fully vaccinated short-term visitors will also no longer be required to purchase Covid-19 travel insurance.
Meanwhile, migrant workers will no longer face community restrictions from Monday, as the Government discontinues the Popular Places Pass system meant to manage crowding in four designated popular locations on Sundays and public holidays.
From March 1, workers will also be able to recover from Covid-19 within their dormitories instead of being taken to recovery facilities.
Given the stable pandemic situation, MOH said it will step down its contact tracing systems, which comprise SafeEntry and the TraceTogether contact tracing app rolled out in 2020.
MOH has also deleted all identifiable TraceTogether and SafeEntry data from its servers and databases, it said.
A TraceTogether token return exercise will be held from next Monday to March 12 at all 108 community clubs.
The multi-ministry task force, which was convened in January 2020, will also be stood down from next Monday with the lifting of restrictions. MOH will assume management of the Covid-19 situation.
If the situation worsens significantly, an appropriate multi-agency crisis management structure will be reactivated, the ministry said.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said the Government’s pandemic management framework and processes continue to be in place.
“We are standing down, but as many of my colleagues have said in this panel, we are continuing to maintain a high level of alertness and preparedness. So we are operationally ready, to use the words of the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces). Any time the button is pressed, we will stand up again,” he added.
These moves come more than three years after Singapore detected its first case of the coronavirus.
The Republic raised its Dorscon level from green to yellow on Jan 21, 2020, and to orange on Feb 7 that same year. The Dorscon level was lowered from orange to yellow on April 26, 2022, as the local Covid-19 situation improved.
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, also a co-chair of the task force, said Covid-19 will not be Singapore’s last pandemic or crisis. “We must always remain vigilant and draw on the lessons we have learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic, so that we can be better prepared for future crises.”
In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said battling the pandemic has been a long hard slog, with many unexpected twists and turns.
“This crisis of a generation has profoundly shaken our lives and changed the world. But standing united, we weathered the pandemic safely,” he added.
“We supported and trusted one another throughout this journey, and have emerged stronger and more resilient as a nation. This is a hard-earned achievement.”
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